Television is rather a frightening business. But I get all the relaxation I want from my collection of model soldiers.
Peter Cushing

Tuesday 30 December 2014

More purchases, a request and a tip.

This arrived from everyone's favourite tax-dodging online retailer this morning:

I'm intending to start up a small wargames club at work - simply in honour of the fact that it was a long ago history teacher who got me started and now I'm back to teaching history full time I feel like I owe the man to pass it on - and so I've picked these as the rules to use. 

The fact that it gives me an excuse to paint a couple of Wars of the Roses retinues is a pure coincidence, of course. 

I should hopefully have some of the Ramblers of Rohan completed tomorrow or the day after so expect some shinies then. 

I do have a request - does anyone know of a 28mm Victorian photographer mini from any manufacturer? I need one for a vignette idea I've had. 

In return I offer this tip - In Her Majesty's Name - a rather spiffing set of steampunk skin rush rules - are currently 99p on kindle as is the expansion. At that price you'd be rude not to get it. 

Friday 26 December 2014

The Next Generation

I thought I'd share what Santa brought for the Elder Child (currently aged 2); operating on the assumption that I need to groom him for gaming duties before he's too much older he got two fisher price castles - one for goodies and one for the baddies.

But more importantly he got this - his first Orc. 

I am so proud. 

The castle even comes with a little catapult and ladder so I can teach him the rudiments of siege warfare. 

Adventurers - Midlam and Oathsworn

So my main present from She Who Must Be Obeyed was a complete set of Vallejo Model Colour paints which she found, unused, second hand.

Either that or she mugged someone for it.

I've been using mainly Vallejo Game Colour paints for years, but the Model range gives a much more natural palette which will - I think - work better with where my style is at now. After packing the Young Ones off to bed and watching Doctor Who (which was wonderful) I cracked open the new paints and painted the Dwarf character played by She Who Must Be Obeyed in my Mid-Life Crisis D&D game. I also finished off the wizard for another of our players.

Oathsworn dwarf - Thor Lowkey

Midlam Miniatures Wizard

I was able to practise a few techniques I needed to brush up on - excuse the pun. Both cloaks were done with glazes and the stunty chap's armour was gone with a mixture of inks and washes. Skin was layering as per usual. The mud was a mixture of drybrushing and my Tamiya mud stick. Having got shots of them painted, I'm going to try to the Vallejo brush on varnish so that if they get wrecked at least I've got good shots.

All that's left for them is basing; I'm undecided between a wilderness or dungeon base. Any bright ideas, please drop 'em in the comments.

My big takeaway from this is that I need practise with eyes for display models. I will therefore use the Ramblers of Rohan as test pieces for a) a more muted colour scheme and b) eyes.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

An Early Christmas Present (from me, to me)

Watching Games Workshop start to wind down their Lord of the Rings range has sent me into a panic buying splurge on eBay to pick up the miniatures I kept promising myself. Added to this is that LOTR is probably my favourite fantasy skirmish rules set as it's one of the most elegant designs I've ever seen and I've never had a game that wasn't fun; I therefore want to lay in enough minis so that I can play it with my kids when they're a bit older. 

So today the postie dropped off a little packet for me: 

Yes, some riders of Rohan. Sans horses. 

Lovely figures - and with the added advantage that they'll double as Anglo-Saxons for general Dark Ages gaming as well. 

Now I just have to paint them...

Merry Christmas from Middle Earth!


Hope everyone and their families have a wonderful time and I hope Santa brings everyone lots of gaming goodness!

Monday 22 December 2014

Doing it right

As a lifelong fan of Hammer movies it's always been a joy of mine that Van Helsing himself - not to mention Grand Moff Tarkin - Peter Cushing played with toy soldiers. So, as a little Christmas treat to those who read the blog, I hereby present to you Peter Cushing - playing with Toy Soldiers and doing it right.

May your Christmas be fruitful and may your hobby space be as civilised as his - and I hope Tamsin from wargaming girl doesn't take offence at HG Wells' paternalistic comments as so enthusiastically quoted by the British Pathe VoiceOver wallah. I'm not a girl and it caught me off guard - it never ceases to amaze me when I raid the BP archives for work the very casual sexism that permeates every single report in so way, shape or form.

Sunday 21 December 2014

They rose from the dead...

Having finally wrestled the Term That Would Not End to the ground with a manly grunt, I have returned to my hobby desk. Last night I sat in front of Lord of the Rings with She Who Must Be Obeyed and finished off the test batch of the Undead from Dwarf King's Hold.

I think the effect is quite striking when en-masse so I'll start on the rest of them this week.

Gaming wise there'll be no RPGs or board games until the other side of Christmas, but I am hopeful that I might get a game of X-Wing in.

Expect some more painting updates soon(ish).

PS - well done to everyone on the painting challenge. I am in awe of your productivity!

Monday 15 December 2014


It's nice to be able to be nice. I put in an order for She Who Must Be Obeyed's dwarf fighter from Oathsworn and it turned up. 

He is, quite simply, gorgeous. Crisply casted and oozing character and attitude from every detail of the sculpt. 

I'm very happy with this purchase--

But wait! What's this? There was a note in the package as well:

And, lo and behold in the package was this little stunner:

Just as good as the first. 

It's this kind of customer service that guarantees repeat custom and enthusiastic plugs on blogs. 

So I can thoroughly recommend not only for the quality of the miniatures but also for being jolly decent human beings.

Sunday 14 December 2014

In which 2 sleeping goblins are murdered by our heroes

Sorry of the long silence; as The Longest Term grinds toward its distant end, hobby time has dwindled. Hopefully some more to report tomorrow but for today, a report on our second session of 5th Edition D&D.

One of our players wasn't able to make it. In the grand tradition of gaming, the other players metaphorically strapped his character to a sackbarrow and wheeled him round like artillery.

We left our Heroes bickering outside of a Goblin bandit hideout. They sent the Dwarf in as he could see in the dark. After being left to talk to the Wizard for the few minutes, the Dragonborn Cleric decided to go in as well. Hilarity promptly ensued as he tripped over the dwarf in the dark.

After dealing with a sentry quite stealthily, our noble warriors promptly screwed up Stealth checks and stumbled into the main Goblin barracks where they fought a handful of green skins; the dwarf fighter got quite badly injured and one of them rushed off to the next cavern; our heroes gave hot pursuit and promptly staggered into an ambush. The dwarf, in true dwarven fashion, charged into the middle of the stalagmite studded chamber and came face to face with the Bugbear bandit chieftain and his pet wolf. The cleric tried a flanking maneuver and a bumped into the goblin who'd run in.. He also got shot by another goblin somewhere else.

There then developed one of those lovely fights you get in RPGs which make the players feel like they're in an action movie. The dwarf was chipping away at the bugbear: the cleric cast a divine rebuke blast of holy light at the chieftain,which made it turn and charge him while the wizard put the goblins to sleep. The bugbear smashed the cleric down to -1 HP and into the realm of Death Saves while the wizard went round staving the heads of the sleeping goblins in with his staff.

The dwarf out the bugbear down and yen totally failed to hit the wolf. The cleric failed a death save, passed one... (Under the new rules, a death save is straight 50-50 on a d20 - three fails and you're gone) And then. Critical - he's back in the game!

All three of them now gather round what is apparently the hardest wolf in gaming history as none of them seem to be able to hit it. Eventually, they put it down and pause, gasping, to take stock.

Well, all except the dwarf, who immediately starts drinking.

After looting the area and divvying up the treasure they decided to barricade the door and take a rest so that the Cleric could try and regain some HP.

The rules around rests make this a feature of longish explorations; it looks like most groups are going have to have rest after 3 or so major events. Mechanically, this is a great chance to build up tension - can they afford to camp here? Who takes watch and therefore doesn't get a rest? And does the DM roll on a wandering monster table? Or what are the other goblins doing? It's soemthing to build into adventure design.

As it was their first, I allow them to rest without incident and, after a discussion in the party about the fact the cleric has so far completely failed to hit anything with his hammer - is he actually unable to use it and just carrying it to compensate for something? - they head off.

Into, I should say, the bit of the dungeon they should have gone to first. There's a lovely scripted bit in this Starter Pack Adventure, The Lost Mine of Phandelvar, where they have to negotiate with a goblin chieftain who is holding a hostage over a long drop. They partly have to decided whether to trust him or, if they attack, work out how without risking the hostage. It's a situation ripe with tactical and dramatic potential.

What actually happened in play was that the party ran in like a Mediaeval SWAT team; before the goblin could even pick up the hostage, the wizard blasted half the goblins with burning hands and the cleric blasted the remainder with his lighting breath. The dwarf sprinted through the cavern, up the steps and smashed the goblin chief down with one hit.

All in one turn.

So, having completely annihilated one of the major dramatic scenes they got to interact with the prisoner - a human who I played as Sean Bean (so they're probably expecting him to die soon) - and got some ideas in what is going on in the area and where the kidnapped dwarf has got to.

There were some other shenanigans involving a cart a day's travel away and stolen supplies and a truly astonishing desire to not lose a single scrap of possible loot, but that was more or less it. The session was enough to put them up to Level 2.

My impressions of this new Edition of D&D seem to be confirmed. It's really is an excellent piece of game design; streamlined, intuitive and easy to pick up. It's so much easier to run than 3rd edition and the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanism is simple brilliant; there's no general modifiers - you're either making a straight roll or an advantaged or disadvantaged one. On an advantaged roll, you roll 2d20 and take the highest and the opposite for disadvantage. It's incredibly elegant - too fuzzy for a wargame but exceptionally good for an rpg when you want the scene to keep moving. 

The starter adventure is very good; in the first section they've basically done a dungeon and got to learn how their characters work and pick up the rules. The next bit is basically a town and a load of adventure leads where they get to do whatever they like. 

If you've ever thought of having a go at any sort of role-playing game, this is probably the best time if you can get a group together. This new edition of D&D is honestly the best gateway drug imaginable.

Saturday 6 December 2014

Paint Table Saturday

I get to use this again, as I've actually managed to paint on a Saturday:

So, what's on the table?

Well, first we have D&D. I'm painting miniatures for my players. Unfortunately, as it turns out, new players have a rather hackneyed visual of their characters. Our wizard player, for example, sent me this as reference:

My reaction was about as you'd imagine. Anyway, based on a recommendation from Edwin in the comments last month, I pootled over to Midlam Miniatures who furnished me with the last word in  bog standard wizardry.

The miniature is exceptionally crisply cast with a very fine cloak and a characterful face. He's been lovely to paint so far - I'll definitely shop with them again as some of their townfolk are excellent. They even popped me a couple of nice D6s in the box.

So here he is with basecoat and simple shading:

Hopefully I'll finish him tomorrow.

In second place on the table, my new major project. A while ago I mentioned that I'd scored a copy of Dwarf king's Hold with some rather lovely Mantic undead. I thought for a while about the paint scheme to use and eventually settled on doing something not naturalistic. As the game presents these as creatures being raised as the game goes on I though that something more ethereal might be in order.

A long time ago I developed a technique for my Cryx which gave an effect somewhat akin to the Army of the Dead from the Lord of the Rings movies which seems like a great opportunity to repurpose.

The trick of it is to use artists ink rather than painting ink as it gives a much greater depth. The actual process is simple: undercoat black then drybrush progressively from dark grey up to white. Then block in large areas with white. This gives your rather gleefully monochrome figures like so:

You then add a good green in wash which gives you this rather lovely effect|:

Finally, you block back in the white and add more green if required - that's for tomorrow.

Very simple, and hopefully very effective. So the rest of the undead will be on the table this week - marking permitting. I also have another session of D&D on friday, so I'll leave you with the photo I took today while thinking about what can dot the landscape:

Good luck!

Just wanted to wish Bon chance to all those brave souls taking part in the Analogue Hobbies painting challenge. I should have slap to report on for tomorrow although I'm not at the point of throwing my hat into the ring with a challenge. Maybe next year....

Sunday 30 November 2014

Alas for the Fallen

I moved house ten months ago; previous to that, all my wargames, roleplaying and painting stuff was in storage. I'm now finally unpacking stuff.

And a lot of it is missing.

Did it get thrown out? Lost in storage? I don't know. But here I wanted to share some images of my lost comrades so at least they are not forgotten:

The saddest thing is that some of the ones I'm most proud of I don't seem to have any images of at all. The Sauruman you see up there is probably the best technical paintjob I've ever done (not that you can tell from the poor photo - this was long before I got into photography) with many layers of glaze and wet blending but the same session resulted in a Grima that was just as good - no images at all. 

More worrying, given my recent declaration of how to deal with my midlife crisis, I can't find my Bloodbowl Team anywhere. So if you'll excuse me, I'm off to drown my sorrows with scotch and painkillers. 

Injured in Battle and an unexpected present

In case anyone is wondering why my posts for the last couple of weeks have been focused on D&D rather than miniatures the answer is quite simple; in the ongoing Parenting War I have been injured.

Hauling a toddler and a baby around has resulted in a very bad back which has meant that I've not been able to assume the usual Hobby Position - don't lie, you all know the one: hunched over a table or over a tray in front of the TV - and so there's been no painting or construction.

However, the lead pile has grown. She Who Must Be Obeyed has been keeping an eye on Facebook recently where people have been selling lots of surplus stuff in the run up to Christmas and, when I returned home from work one day I was presented with these two:

Upon opening, I discovered this:

They were sold as bits, but close inspection shows at least 20 or so Space Marines, 7 Orks, 20 or so skeletons, some Tau, some Dwarves and a huge amount of scenic bits and pieces. There basically enough detail bits here to power a dozen vignettes - as long as I don't mind doing some 40K stuff - as well as two large cases in which to keep my own bits. I think that was a pretty good haul for £25!

Friday 28 November 2014

Here be Dragons

This is part of a continuing strand of worldbuilding blogs for my nascent D&D 5th Edition game. If you're only here for the wargames, modelling and painting, feel free to skip on to the next entry. 

So, but considering money and British history, I have some details roughed out for how my world is going to work on a social level. But the big question remains - what about the dragons? This is really shorthand for how does magic effect the world.

Although, to be fair, dragons are pretty cool on their own.

On a metaphyscial level, D&D has always operated on the assumption that the world operates on normal physical laws with magic sort of laid over the top; it's easy to think of it in computer terms as being a back door that allows casters to hack the code of reality and do things that normal users can't. This is made more or less explicit in a little boxout in the 5th Edition PHB. I'm happy to work with this - after all, I want these new players to get a proper D&D experience.

So, how does magic work here? I'll cover this in a few sections.


Ok, they're too big to ignore and they are pretty iconic, so we need to deal with them. I'm happy to have them as a sentient race - after all, I have a dragonborn cleric in the party. So let's deal with them on that basis. We know that we've got our Roman analogue elves in the backstory and they have a slave-based economy - which certainly fits with Fitz-Badger's comment under the last post about the Mirkwood influence; I can certainly imagine Thranduil putting the Dwarves to work. So that's how Dragons got here - dragon slaves were used as transport and heavy cavalry in much the same way that Claudius threw a few elephants into the British campaign. I also live the visual of ruined 'docking towers' dotting the landscape where the sky-triremes were once berthed as part of the Empire's trade routes. 

When the Fall came, some of them were left behind; and through some means that we can explore at another juncture this led to some form of interbreeding - probably some sort of cult, it usually is - which results in the dragonborn. There was probably a small number of dragons left behind which makes them rare and interesting. I'll fiddle around the edges of this concept to come up with a reason for wyverns - after all, what is my Wales analogue without a red dragon? - but this gives me a way to have them around but without taking the world too far from our basis.

Halflings and Gnomes

Yeah, I'm going to go with the Jewish Mediaeval model here. Not the purges and the discrimination - although that might produce some good story seeds if I decide to play that card - but by having them as dispersed populations without a homeland. They'll need some sort of service or goods that they can provide, analogous to the moneylending of the middle ages, but I might leave that until I've got a handle on religion. Whatever it is will be cultural rather than race-based as there's nothing in the PHB that jumps out at me as a big enough hook.

Magic Users

Yeah, this is the big one. I'll deal with clerics in another post as that requires me to get to grips with religion which is a bigger question than we have here.

The Wizard player has already mentioned in play the 'Head of [his] Order' so I know there must be more than one order of casters. Normally I could flail around for a while with that but the nice thing about working with D&D is that rules presuppose certain things about every setting. To whit:

  • There are three types of arcane Spellcaster: Wizards, Sorcerers and Warlocks. So that's my orders sorted out.
  • Magic items can be created - interestingly, in 5th, non-magic users can create certain potions if they are proficient in the apothecary skill. I see no reason why non-spellcasting smiths couldn't make magical weapons or armour - after all, if it's good enough for Mime in the Ring Cycle, it's good enough for me. 
  • Teleportation Gates can be made permanent quite simply. This has, I think, a far reaching effect on the game world, unless it is strictly controlled. Thankfully, by skipping forward slightly in my pillaging from history, I can quite easily put in a method of social control for such power - I'll put it under the control of a Guild. I can't take full credit for this idea - after all, it's pretty much the same solution Frank Herbert came up with. 

So, for my world, I can quite comfortably add the following:

The Guild of Journeymen: controls teleportation gates in ever major city. Only Guild casters know the sigil keys for these gates and these are the main trade routes for major merchants. This had a brilliant knock on effect - it leaves the roads and rivers as the only routes affordable by minor merchants and so is ripe for smuggling and wilderness adventures. After all, if most of the King's taxes are collected at the Journeymen's Gate, he has no need to pay for expensive patrols on the roads out and about the place.

There will be three main orders of casters; the Witan (Wizards), with the name stolen from the Old English for 'to know'; the Trowe/Faithbreakers (the first being what they call themselves, as in true to Things with which they have made pacts, and the latter being the literal translation of Warlock); and finally the Scinlaecan (middle english for Sorceress). For this to work practically, we're looking at a Guild-type system again, a closed shop of magic users in which unapproved magic is frowned upon. I imagine some people employed by the Orders as witchfinders, whose job it is to find magic users and bring them 'in from the cold'. I can't imagine these being anything other than figures of fear, sweeping into villages and hauling away talented children. I've always preferred innocuous names for bad guys, so lets call them Gatherers.


I'm actually incapable of running a game without some horror elements. As I alluded to in the last post, I ran Call of Cthulhu for more years than I can comfortably count on a weekly basis. So, where can I slip in some horror? Well, we'll obviously have some Grendel-influenced trolls and other beasties in the fens and moors, but that's just a case of presentation rather than content. It's not Lovecraftian by any means.

Baked into the rules system of the Warlock is the idea of the pact with an Other - be it a fiend, an Old One or the Fey. But what is all magic was simply accessing the powers of unknowable Things From Before Time? What if, every time magic was used, the fabric of our current reality which keeps them at bay was weakened? And that pretty much gives me a cosmological reason to start introducing Arboleths, Beholders and Ithilids into the milieu. At some point, our Wizard will have to realise that every piffly little Magic Missile he casts brings the destruction of the entire world one step closer, until he realises that he has almost unlimited power but is too afraid to use it... And that's Lovecraftian horror.

That's pretty much it for the moment - the next couple of posts will be miniatures based while I wait for the next game session. By seeing how the characters play I'll gain a bit more cultural information about their races and classes.

As aways, let me know in the comments what you think and I'll nick the best ideas.

Sunday 23 November 2014

Money makes the world go 'round

In which we continue our worldbuilding for D&D. If this has no interest to you, feel free to skip and move on to the next post which will have some undead action. 

Sticking with the philosophy that we build our world from the ground up it make sense to start by thinking about the thing which is closest to the hearts of all adventurers: cash.

Looking to history, Dark Ages money is a weird thing. There's a fairly strong historical consensus that for around a century money stopped being used for day to day activities as the roman coinage slipped into disuse. This is very interesting but probably not useful for gaming purposes - our heroes want portable cash and it's only in fairly static societies that barter can work.

In the later Anglo Saxon period, we know that Offa in Mercia started minting gold shillings - so there's my Gold Pieces. There were silver pennies, but that leaves me a bit short for coppers. So if I call the silvers farthings (which comes from fourths so doesn't really make sense but I'm going to bet my players don't know that) and I'm left with copper pennies.

This leaves me with platinum and electrum pieces to deal with; I'm going to ignore electrum as they're frankly a bit silly. But what to do with the top of the tree, the platinum piece...? Remember those roman coins that are still floating round up until the 700s? We're going to have some Siliquae floating around in our world.

But where do they come from? I'm glad you asked. The Heptarchy has a lot of little twiddly bits around the edges that only make sense when you remember that a lot of the administrative bits and pieces were left over from the Roman occupation. So do we have any advantages from having a fallen empire in our world? In a world, yes. Why? In a word, dungeons.

Ruins scattered around the landscape gives us some ruins for the adventurers to go and rob; lost treasures, ancient technology, forgotten - and forbidden - lore... Yes, a fallen empire gives us a lot of bang for our buck.

In traditional fantasy settings, Elves and Dwarves tend to be portrayed as elder races. So they were here first - our ersatz Romans. I like the idea of having the Elves being the fallen, imperialist state as it gives them a slightly different flavour to usual. This then casts the dwarves as the Greeks, scholars, philosophers and seekers after knowledge. I like that.

So where does that leave us?

The humans are the original inhabitant of our landmass, conquered several centuries ago by the Elvish empire (which will be a militaristic, slave-based society). They brought with them a few tribes of dwarves as administrators and technicians. The Empire fell, and the forces withdrew. Why did it fall? Dunno yet - I can flesh that out later. Outside invasion is the obvious analogue with actual history, but internal decay and decadence fits quite well with modern elvish tropes so I can play with that later.

We have some remnants of their forces left; the ones who 'went native' - our bardic, Celtic welsh-analogues, based in the kingdoms of the West (which tells me the direction the nearest landmass must be). So culturally, my markers for them are set Romans with Druidic overlays and welsh language. My cultural markers for the Dwarves are now set as Greek but skinned with Norse trappings. That's enough for me as GM to wing anything I need to or to start planning if I get the sense that my players want to engage with broader political stories.

More importantly, I now have a reason and a style for ruins, tombs and even deserted towns to dot the land. The remnants of a once bustling Imperial Colony which has contracted in the last few centuries as the human kingdoms have fought to establish themselves in the power vacuum.

The next update will be based around the human cultures - and weaving in some horror elements. You don't run Call of Cthulhu every week for a decade without it leaving a mark.

Small World

So a quick note about how I built my world. The biggest mistake people make is building a world that feels vast. They want the EPIC FANTASY EXPERIENCE. That's fine, but you have to ask yourself - how long are you going to play this game for? How far are the characters really going to go?

I once ran a campaign where I started with just a village and a wood; we then built the world from there as we went along, with each player contributing the history of their people. This kind of co-creation is great, but I was going to be playing this with three people who'd never played an RPG before - hence my choice of D&D 5th Edition. So I needed a framework.

Talent borrows, genius steals, we get it off the back of a lorry, no questions asked.

Realistically, I need a world that has a few kingdoms rubbing up against each other for political intrigue and the risk of war; I want some empty space for monsters and bandits and what have you; I need enough room to have some different races and cultures; and I'd like to have an area for 'noises off' - that is, an external threat that I can use for an epic threat if I need.

The solution is, therefore, this:

This is my world; it's rough, hence the crossings out, and bits and pieces will be added or moved around as the game progresses - until the characters have actually been there, it doesn't really exist in a concrete form.

Now, I know I have a few History teachers who read this blog, so you'll be recognising quite a few of the names. I have, of course, nicked Anglo-Saxon Britain almost wholesale.

Here's the seven kingdoms of the so-called Dark Ages, known as the Heptarchy:

Some of the names track across quite easily; I've given all of Northumbria back to one of the ancient kingdoms that made it up, Deira; I've shifted the kingdoms of Wales up north a little and dumped all of Scotland into 'The Northlands' which is basically shorthand for Here Be Dragons.

My basic thinking is as follows; there's enough linkages between bardic and druidic culture for me to call the Elves Welsh and declare victory, so that's a win. I'll take the isle of Anglesey and use that for something magical. Dwarves like mountains, so I'll stick them in the Pennines. 

I can then use Anglo-Saxon and Old English language to name stuff, giving me the feel of a coherent culture with no back-breaking labour - so Mere for lake, the northern forest is called Northweald and so forth. 

At this point, I start stealing stuff from the players. One of them has made a Dwarf and given it a Nordic sounding name. So the dwarf mines get Nivleder as a name, a corruption of Niflheim crashed into Anglo-Saxon. The Cleric has chosen a thunder god, so I can start building a pantheon around the old Pagan gods and so forth... you get the idea. 

And up north? Well, I'm calling them the Skald so you can probably work out what they're going to be.

And that's enough to begin with - because now I have a sense for how this world works, I can zoom in on one area to start with. And where better than God's Own Country, Yorkshire? Or Deira, in this case.

So here's the map for the first area. 

I've started with the first major settlements; I'm then going to steal settlement patterns from the Domesday Book because - again - why keep a dog and bark yourself? This means that I can very quickly get a sense for any given area and add the fantasy trappings to make it work. 

That's it for the moment; if you want to hear more about how I'm going to cheat my way to a calendar, religion, culture and history let me know in the comments. 

Saturday 22 November 2014

Interregnum - A Review of Dungeons and Dragons: The Lost Mines of Phandelvar

Just a quick note in two parts about my first go at running a roleplaying game in a decade.

Part the First: the game

The new edition of D&D is lovely. It's jettisoned a large amount of clutter from the rules; although it's kept that awful class and level system - although that does have a certain retro charm - the rest of it very much feels like a game that's taken  notice of the evolution of rulessets over the last twenty years.

The use of a D20 makes the odds very unpredictable - there's a huge amount of swing in combats and skills checks; the advantage mechanism - which is a bloody brilliant bit of design - mitigates this somewhat but I've added to that with allowing players to use Inspiration for rerolls.

And Inspiration - we're dealing with an edition of D&D which mechanically rewards players for playing their characters. We're through the looking glass, here.

The Lost Mines is an adventure that comes in the starter box. It's neat, well structured and has a good balance of set-pieces and sandbox freedom that is an excellent introduction to the concept of roleplaying for novices. I can imagine a new GM being a touch overwhelmed by it as I've already had to go quite fast and loose with some elements to make it flow. There is one encounter about halfway through that is going to kill any party that rushes in where angels fear to tread -- which I'm all in favour of.

Basically, if anyone is umm-ing and ahh-ing about buying this new edition, go for it. You won't be disappointed.

Part the Second: the play's the thing

So, we have 3 players. A female Religious Studies teacher; a male RS teacher; and a male IT Network Manager and Web Designer. Respectively, they created a Dwarf Fighter, a Dragonborn Cleric and a Human Wizard. As they hadn't had any RPGs under their belt before, I decided to give them the full experience and have them meet in a tavern.

It didn't go well.

The dwarf threw nuts at the head of the dragonborn; when the cleric went over to batter the 'shortarse runt', the wizard tripped him up -- with a crit, no less. Things went rapidly downhill from there.

I actually missed a trick here - I should have locked them all up and played it as The Usual Suspects; but alas I am rusty and missed the chance. Anyway, by an NPC resorting to bribery, I managed to get them escorting a wagonload of supplies up north.

They traveled for a day without speaking to each other.

They camped the night without speaking to each other (and didn't post a piquet - if that happens again I shall destroy them with a wandering beastie of some description).

The dwarf seems to be developing a drinking problem.

Thankfully, a goblin ambush provided something of a common enemy; party relationships were not helped by the fact that the wizard took out more than the Cleric who is operating under the assumption that he is an effective warrior - he's yet to see the Dwarf fighter go The Full Gimli.

Anyway, we left it where they were heading into the Goblin hideout in pursuit of that most noble of all adventurers - loot.

So basically it took them three hours to go from never having played D&D to breaking into someone's home to nick their stuff. I'd say that counts as a success, wouldn't you?

So my question is - I need some good miniatures for the characters. Any suggestions for the following (and you know I'm happy to convert and sculpt as required):

  • A male human wizard, aged and bearded, robed, quarterstaff and with a pointy hat - no brim. 
  • A male dwarf with a two-handed warhammer, slung shield and chainmail. Flagon of ale would be nice but not essential.
  • A male dragonborn cleric in chainmail with a two-handed warhammer, slung shield. Wings would be nice but not a dealbreaker.

Any thoughts gratefully appreciated.

I promise I'll stop the D&D posts soon and get back to the wargaming - I have another WFB match coming up.

A Field In England

"Hold fast!" Creedence Hopkins called to his compatriots and the evil spawn shambled closer. "The Lord Christ is with us!"

Forsaken Smith snorted, "I'd rather 'twere Richard Ingoldsby's men." With a crack his pistol discharged and he cocked the second one.

Hopkins raised his Holy Bible and stared down the hill at what had once been his friend. He drew in a might breath and roared, "In the name of God, GO!"


Well, it's done; and I'm quite pleased with it; we can think of it as a very late Zomtober entry.

If you've been keeping up with the construction blogs, you've seen how this came together bit by bit.

The last stages were sticking the miniatures into the base after the base coat. I then added some gravel and blended the painting in.

The last stage was adding the foliage; varying it between static grass, clump foliage and long grass to create a more natural feel.

Here's some more shots of the final piece - when I took the photos the last few bits of loose grass and what have you were stuck to the miniatures. That's been blown off now.

I'm happy with the painting of the miniatures and I'm quite pleased with how the tree turned out although my sculpting skills are still not really up to scratch. I like the effect of the different landscaping materials and I'll use that again.

I'd like to thank Mr Michael Awdry of the 28mm Victorian Warfare for putting me on to Tamiya Clear Red for the blood and everyone who has stopped by and offered their support.

I just need to paint the edges of the base black and then it's done. And then? This and the Dinosaur model will be being donated to the school library next week in the hopes that they might inspire some Small Person to pick up a paintbrush or a book.

On to the next project!

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Nearly there!

The final stretch looms - the next update should be the final piece. Here's a little taster to whet the old appetite as I need to spend a couple of evenings building a world for D&D (if anyone's interested in that I can talk about it here - I'm basically turning the Heptarchy into a fantasy world).

Here's the sculpted tree in position on the undercoated vignette base.

As of tonight, all the miniatures are in place, the base is painted. All that remains is some landscaping, grass and other textures and the project is done.

The next one isn't going to be a vignette but rather a unit of sorts. As part of my prep I dug out some of my old Cryx to think about colour schemes:

So, that's me entering radio silence til the weekend - unless anyone wants to know about the world I'm making. 


Saturday 15 November 2014

The 'Battle' of Nebelheim

Conrad von Krapp, Master of the Black Arts, Raiser of the Dead, Lord of the Ten Towns, Wielder of the Dark Flame of Canduin, leaned forward and glared at the messenger, his eyes blazing red. "Say what?"

The messenger sighed inwardly. "My Lord, through a series of unlikely events that don't really need to be explored at this juncture, a force of Lizardmen has invaded the hamlet of Nebelheim."

Von Krapp leaned back in his throne and steepled his bony fingers. "The bloody cheek!" He muttered.  "Bloody dinosaurs trampling all over my food sou-- I mean, my noble peasants whom I am sworn to protect!" He glanced around, hoping nobody had caught his little slip. 

The courtiers shifted uncomfortably, trying not to catch his burning eye and pretending not to notice the way the candlelight reflected from his fangs. 

"Right, time to teach those scaly buggers a lesson. Assemble my forces!"


It seems only fair to admit something at this point. Many moons ago I used to work for an Unnamed Games Company for whom I wrote rules, editing other writers rules and creating scenarios. In all my years of playtests - many, many playtests - and in all my years of hobby gaming, I have never won a battle.

Not once.

Not even using rules that I wrote.

So you can imagine that my hopes weren't high as I went in to my first game of Warhammer Fantasy Battle since Skull Pass. I wasn't sure on the new edition rules, I was using someone else's army and my choices were limited by what miniatures they had.

I picked Vampire Counts because... Well, because Undead are cool. Let's not kid ourselves. My general style of play varies depending on the game and army but my basic plan here was to March shambling beasts straight down the throat of the enemy, supported by my Necromancer, while a unit of Hexwraiths* rode backwards and forwards over the rear lines like they'd escaped from Johnny Cash singing Riders In The Sky.

So, I set up the forces like so.

On the other side were... I dunno, some lizards. They had a big looking dinosaur which I figured would cause me some problems and a few Cold One riders**. Oh, and there were some skinks. But come on - they're the Kobolds of Warhammer. How much trouble could they cause me?

So there's the set up. My scaly opponent won the roll to go first, shockingly.

The magic phase arrived and his tiny little skink priest cast a spell which placed a marker on the table. This marker shows where a comet may - or may not - strike at some point in the game depending on a die roll. And, as you can see, he placed it right in front of my main block of troops. Some desultory missile fire which totally missed all of my chaps and that was his turn over.

My turn arrived, and I launched my master plan. The flanking Varghulf - a big monster, quite capable of ripping through a unit of cavalry - was in a position to charge at his Cold One riders.

The huge monster, however, decided that there was a daisy that really needed to be examined somewhere on the floor a few inches in front of it and failed the charge.

My insanely powerful Necromancer then completely failed to cast a spell. I assume he was distracted by a bird, or something. And that was my turn.

So, turn 2. The lizards charge into my main blocks. My plan is working perfectly. The Hexwraiths and Varghulf are still free on the flanks to sweep round the back and take the opposing army roughly from behind. The magic phase arrives and we casually throw a dice for the unlikely event that the comet lands.

It does.

See that green die? That's where it landed. See everything else in the picture? That's in the blast radius. 

Now, I could take you through all the maths on this. And tell you exactly how many hits were smashed into my units and the lizard units that had charged into combat with them.

Instead, I'll just show a picture of all the troops that were killed by the comet cast by the tiny little skink priest standing in front:

For those you keeping count at home, that's over two thirds of all the models on the table - including my general.

Most of the rest of my army promptly crumbled to dust.

Regardless of the outcome, it was a really good game. We spent a lot of time laughing and got a great war story - which is kind of the whole point, isn't it? Had it been a normal game we'd've probably forgot it in a few weeks. As it is, we'll always remember the day a single skink took out an entire undead army.


Ss'lik stared at the massive crater where both armies had been. The gaped at the wisps of smoke that curled up towards the sky that had - just a moment ago - torn open with the fury of the Old Ones but was now blue and calm. He slowly looked down at his finger. 

"Whoah," he said. 

*For those not familiar with the things I'm talking about, Hexwraiths are ethereal cavalry who do damage simply by riding through a unit. Enormous fun - or so it seemed.

**my previous experience of Cold Ones was spending an awful lot of money modelling some really cool looking Dark Elf Cold One Knights who failed their stupidity tests and spent the battle sniffing daisies somewhere on the left flank. In every single battle in which I fielded them. Seriously. Every time.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Bits and Pieces

Well, I have survived another Ofsted visit and my unbroken record continues unabated - I appear to a +3 Cloak of Invisibility To Inspectors as I haven't been seen since 2003. 

Anyway, as the dust settles, I can start to turn my attention to the workbench. This has been an evening of bits. First, the tree; this is designed to give some further height to the rear of the model and well as make the Witchhunters appear smaller and thus more vulnerable. 

A few twists of garden wire 

Et voila. Throw in some greenstuff seeing as I bought so much of the damn stuff and we have a reasonably well skinned tree: 

A few more bits on the furthest branches and some tatty foliage and we can call that one done. 

As per usual I mixed too much greenstuff and so used it up by adding some detailing to the other job this evening, the fence marking the edge of this godforsaken graveyard: 

Not the neatest job in the world, but it will add a touch of visual interest and saves me clipping pins to make nails. 

Hopefully I'll get the tree finished and mounted at the weekend and then it's just a matter of painting and greenery. 

The week should end well in gaming terms though - by a freak confluence of events, tomorrow sees me fight my first game of Warhammer Fantasy Battle in nearly ten years and Friday evening will see me dragged out of retirement to run my first RPG in almost as long. Having read the new edition I can say something I never thought I'd say - I'm actually looking forward to a game of Dungeons and Dragons. 

I'll let you know what misadventures befall. 

Saturday 8 November 2014

Still here - and still suffering...

...from shinybloodyitis.

I've got through yet another Ofsted - the joys of Special Measures are unbounded; truly, 'tis the gift that keeps on giving - and rewarded myself by having a little splurge on ebay. Having decided - with your help - that I'm going to build my Bloodbowl kit, I figured that I could spend the money I'd earmarked for Bloodbowl on something else. After all, the money had already been spent, theoretically speaking.

Some fast talking appeared to convince She Who Must Be Obeyed of the logic of this position (or else she simply wanted me to shut up so she could get back to watching Judge Judy) and so I have now found myself the proud owner of this:


For the princely sum of not very much at all.

Space Hulk in a dungeon, basically. The added advantage is that SWMBO is a fan of dwarves so she'll probably play this with me.

I've never had any Mantic miniatures before but I have to say based on this evidence I will be getting some more. Incredibly crisp sculpts and the miniatures ooze character - especially the Dwarf Mastiff and miner.  I am very much looking forward to painting these.

I am, however, determined to finish the Civil War vignette before I start putting these chaps together. Some landscaping has been done and hopefully we should see some progress before the weekend is out.

Monday 3 November 2014

There's only one f in Ofsted...

Slight pause in hobby activity, chaps, due to a visit from everyone's favourite Accountability Watchdogs.

This probably means that the current project won't finish until next week now.

See you after the war!

Saturday 1 November 2014

Mid Life Crisis (refusing to put away childish things)

My fortieth birthday is fast approaching and I've decided to deal with it by embracing childish things. As I mentioned elsewhere, I've been invited to dust off my old WFB boots; I'm also currently digging out some old miniatures from games of yesteryear for the joy of painting.

But there's only one game that I no longer have that I regret; I'm not sad that I got shot of all my Flintloque stuff; I'm not particularly upset about the various periods and games that have fallen by the wayside - all except one.

Bloodbowl 3rd Edition was magnificent. I spent most of my first year at University playing it. I owned 2nd Edition - the one with the polystyrene board - and went halves with a fellow student on the 3rd. I've moved house many times, since then. So many things went walkabouts. And somewhere, along the way, Bloodbowl went.

And I want it back; to play with my mates, to play with my kids when they're old enough. So the question becomes - and this is where I turn to you, my online hobby chums - do I pay the price it commands on Ebay or do I build it myself?

The board would be simple - lasercut mdf. The various counters and stuff can be sculpted or lasercut quite easily. The measuring stick and throw in templates I can lasercut from perspex or print onto thick acetate. The dugouts I could make quite easily. What can I not cobble up? It looks like:

  • Dice - there's a couple of special dice which I can't remember the markings of
  • Measurements for the board - if that hasn't changed from 2nd I can use the poly one as a basis
  • Length of measurements - I can't remember how long the different passes were
  • Rulebook and quick reference sheets

So. What do I do? Let me know in the comments.

Also, if any of you can provide the missing information to help me out that would certainly help make my mind up. Any links to pdfs or information about dice or measurements would certainly make DIY less bothersome.

Paint Table Saturday - almost done

I actually managed to get some painting done on a Saturday for once, which means I get to use this fabulous graphic designed by someone much more talented than I.

So, we're at the point where the painting is more or less done apart from a couple of buckles, pupils and some gore (using the recipe provided by the always helpful Lord of Awdrey Towers). The next couple of sessions will be on terrain; this time, having painted the miniatures I'll be doing the setting to match their palette rather than the other way around as I did with the last lot. The idea here, though, will be to use some static grass to provide a quite bright background to give contrast to the dark figures. That's the plan, anyway.

So, here's the stout, God-fearing men:

 And here's the undead horde:
 And here's the wittyly anachronistic Ainsty Castings gravestones

 Last few compositional experiments before settling on the final layout:

 The most annoying thing is that on these photos I can again see mould lines that I missed. I must take more care on the prep next time. Thankfully the next project is a couple of single miniatures so I'll be forced to concentrate on the details rather than the overall effect.

Oh - and this post marks another Milestone: I've just passed 1000 page views. Thank you all for your continued support.

Thursday 30 October 2014


Well, we're getting there bit by bit. Via the simple expedient of packing the kids off to nursery I've freed up some hobby time. Slow going on the painting due to being asked to have a game of WFB for the first time in two editions. So that required some hard graft in drawing up an army list.

It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.

In other news, I think I've cracked the zombie skin in a way which I'm more or less happy with. Vallejo dead flesh with a wash gives a decent base colour, although a little warm:

 Highlighting with dead flesh/bleached bone cools it down again and restores the slightly sickly hue:

All the base colours are blocked in now, so it's just highlighting and detail work left to do and then we're on to landscaping. As per usual, highlighting black is a joy; I'd sadly forgotten the last lot of painting I'd done in which I'd simply shaded down from grey to get black and painted my Covenanted Men in base black, leaving me the fun (hah!)of mixing various greys and then blacks to shade again. Anyway, they are also done:

I don't think this one will be finished until the end of next week but I have hopes that it will look pretty close to what I had in mind.

Sunday 26 October 2014

Hang on... I was catching up on my reading, and read this over at Cheaphammer:

It's been a combination of having a lot on in terms of work (lots of marking and meetings) 
and then something I saw at the Lead Pile (making a gaming mat while his Sixth Formers got on with their projects - and oh, how I wish I was still working in a practical workshop and could do that). And it's moved me to ask - how many of us are teachers? Including the Talented Mr Awdry over at 28mm Victorian Warfare that makes 3 out of the 20 or so blogs I follow: statistical fluke or is wargaming something that especially appeals to the kind of people that go into teaching?

Enquiring minds want to know. Tell us in the comments.

It's ALIVE! - sort of Zomtober

It's true what they say; no idea you have after midnight is a good one. I performed surgery on the thumb with a pair of snips. Although this restored some movement it did give me a few more issues.

However, the most important point was that I was able to move my digits about enough to crack out the sculpting gear.

I've never been a particularly good sculptor - the Top Secret Filler Project will amply prove in a couple of weeks - but it's nice to see the techniques come dribbling back. So what did I need to do?

The cut and shut and method of the conversions on the walking dead was fine for tabletop use but for a diorama it's worth going the extra mile.

So this chap had some hair added to cover the complete lack of neck and to help blend the head into the existing shoulders. I also added a couple of tears and rents in the material of the coat - fairly simple musket damage.

This chap needed some raggedy bits of material and flesh to show where the leg had been ripped off (sorry about this poor photo)

As to leg thief this one wasn't a conversion so much as an issue with the original miniature; the Zombie sprues, although excellent, sometimes go from rotting corpse to skeletal too quickly depending on the choice of pieces and so it was with this chap. So a bit of torn material added around the shoulder joint helps sell the transition.

I actually forgot to take a picture of him, so you'll have to take my word for it.

Finally, this fellow needed some extra attention. As he'll be leading the charge and so will be the most immediately visible of the horde, he needed a little extra attention. The zombie arms did not really fit well with the ECW body, so the jacket was extended and torn to help blend the two pieces together; at the same time I added some tears in the trousers and jacket to make him look a bit more beaten up.

I also decided - based on rewatching Mark Gatiss' Horror Europa at the approach to Zombies in The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue - I'd like him to have an obvious cause of death; so a quick edged trauma to the head was added.

These chaps, along with the gravestones and a couple of bits for the Top Secret Filler Project, were undercoated today; so my Half Term Plan is to crack on with the painting tomorrow.

Incidentally, you can see in the background there the ridiculous amount of greenstuff I bought off ebay by mistake. I thought I was ordering 6'' and instead got 36''. Still, I'm not going to run out any time soon, eh?

Wednesday 22 October 2014

The Hands of Orlac

The thumb is about healed enough to do some carving today; painting and sculpting will take another few days, I think.

So, where did we get to? I've actually spent a very Cooper-ish evening watching Twin Peaks, drinking coffee and eating pie and then shining my shoes to a mirror finish. Inbetween episodes, I've managed to more or less finish the basic terrain and play around with some composition:


I quite like the progression of the tombstones to draw the eyes up. The gravestones are from the wonderful Ainsty Castings; full of detail and character. I'm quite looking forward to painting them up.

The view down the hill to see the shambling mass:

The view up the hill to see our noble heroes.

So assuming that I can bend my thumb properly the next step is to slap some filler on the ground and then sculpt the additional bits on the undead horde. Following this, painting ahoy. So expect to see some progress over half term.

*watching Twin Peaks has got me asking two questions. 

First, does anyone make a 28mm Not Dale Cooper?
Second, how hard would it be to paint a floor like this?

Monday 20 October 2014


After posting last night, I decided to do a little more landscaping work whilst watching Twin Peaks. Alas, I forgot the golden rule about always cutting away for yourself and, well....


It took three dressings but the bleeding finally stopped. Anyway, it looks like the schedule will slip slightly as I can't bend the thumb.

Still, one must be prepared to suffer for one's art, eh?

Sunday 19 October 2014

Slow progress is still progress...

Due to the fact that I can't find my greenstuff anywhere, work on finishing the undead menace has halted awaiting resupply. Today has therefore been a frustrating sequence of snatched bits between marking and parenting. The base is mounted and instructions added to ensure that my aged brain doesn't fail completely when the time comes to carve it:


Work has also started on my Top Secret filler project:

I'll not comment any more on that as I'll probably just unveil that one when it's done.

A trip to the car boot sale this morning netted me a little set of goodies. I nearly bought a load of 1/72nd saxons and normans in order to build a model of Senlac ridge to use in lessons, but they'd been painted (badly) and I didn't fancy going through all the hassle of stripping them. Instead I got these chaps for the princely sum of £8:

I'm torn between building a Games of Thrones vignette - these chaps strike me as a good base for some realistic looking Lannister footmen - or to try and build a warband for Saga or Lion Rampant. The idea for this is shamelessly ripped off from Mike C's Westeros Saga work which I thoroughly recommend you check out.

Has anyone picked up Lion Rampant yet? I do like the look of them but have yet to take the plunge. The added advantage is that it would give me an excuse to buy some Perry Foot Knights.